Volunteer in seven cities over spring break with Pay It Forward


A student from the 2022 tour dons a volunteer vest while picking up trash in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Courtesy of Pay It Forward.

Seven cities; nine days.

A student volunteer organization at Iowa State will be filling its spring break with a nine-day trip that will consist of helping others and sightseeing in seven cities throughout the country.

Pay It Forward is a student-run group that volunteers in the Ames community through various service projects. Their largest event of the year is their annual nine-day tour, where the organization has the opportunity to travel to new cities to complete philanthropic activities.

This year will be their eighth spring break trip, and the organization will be traveling to New Orleans, with stops along the way in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Past trips have included St. Louis; Nashville, Tennessee; Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington D.C. At these locations, the group volunteered at and visited the World Bird Sanctuary, Samaritan’s Feet and Bread For The City.

A member of the 2022 tour helps build birdhouses at the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis. Courtesy of Pay It Forward.

There is also a mini Pay It Forward Tour in the Ames and Des Moines areas that gives students the opportunity to experience traveling without fully committing to the nine-day spring break trip. The most recent mini-tour took place on October 1 and 2, 2022.

In 2022, the Pay It Forward Tour was the first spring break trip since March 2019 without any cancellations. A group of 42 participants had the opportunity to travel the East Coast to make an impact on the communities visited and make meaningful connections.

“For me personally, I think the best part of the Pay It Forward experience is the connections you make,” said Kaitlyn Holtz, the group’s president and a senior in chemical engineering. “Whether that is someone you are volunteering with within the organization or those that we are getting ready to make an impact on, the people aspect of Pay It Forward is very special and unique to this idea of paying it forward.”

Kennedi Steburg, a junior in microbiology, received emails about the Pay It Forward Tour last year. She was afraid it would be too late to join and ended up attending the group’s regular meetings this school year instead.

Steburg immediately felt welcomed into the group and is now signed up for the 2023 tour.

“The people I have met in the club are already so much fun and very friendly,” Steburg said. “I have never felt awkward or out of place at any meeting I have attended,” Steburg said.

The 2022 tour members at Washington D.C. wearing the free t-shirts that came with the trip fees. Courtesy of Pay It Forward.

The 2023 Pay It Forward Tour will cost $600 per person. The costs include an almost all-inclusive spring break with eight nights of housing, a minimum of two meals per day, a t-shirt, all tourism events and some smaller activities.

This year, the group has space for 45 students to attend the trip, and limited spots are still available. The deadline to sign up is Friday.

Outside of its annual tour, Pay It Forward includes smaller local projects for its members. To sign up for these events, members can simply put their names down on a Google Sheet provided by the executive team.

“Some of the events I have attended include concessions for the basketball game, working at the local thrift store, Overflow, cleaning up at Reiman Gardens and finally, serving at the Food at First soup kitchen,” said Dan Springman, a sophomore in software engineering. “These were super convenient as they were all within Ames.”

Students can sign up for as many or as few events as they like and attend bi-weekly meetings as they are able to. Pay It Forward welcomes all majors, identities and service interests on Iowa State’s campus.

“We have a great student representation on campus,” Holtz said. “Since there are no requirements of major or specific time commitment, our members are able to choose when they want to volunteer with us and what general meetings they would like to attend.”

Additional information and the group’s contact information can be found on their website and socials on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.